What's happened here?

Inpected my hives today. 3 of the 4 hives are from splits taken late last year.

The hive in question was originally split into a 5 frame nuc - and in my haste i’ve moved it into a 10 frame box when it was only 3-4 frame full in the nuc. Probably too soon. I’ve also had to feed the bees as its been a very wet summer here in Sydney and the bees have somewhat struggled.

This hive’s queen came from a queen breeder in QLD and was installed in the hive about 6 weeks ago. I was able to locate the queen during the inspection.

I’m seeing some dead pupae, possibly some sunken cells(?) and some cells with eggs laid on the side, and a few random cells with more than one egg.

I’m hoping this is just a case of:
a) a new queen thats still figuring out the whole laying thing (re multiple eggs)
b) having too few bees to cover the frames i installed during the split which has made it impossible for the bees to service all of the frames - and not something more sinister.

Can someone help me here? Is this something I should be concerned about?

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Hi Matt, first of all, I keep nucs in 10 frame supers all the time. Even down to 2 frames of bees, as long as there’s a healthy number of bees on those 2 frames. As well as a hive mat, & a greatly reduced entrance.

If the amount of bees on that frame is how it came out of the hive, it is too few bees to be able to look after the brood & allow the new queen to show her potential. What you’re showing is typical of what I see when a colony is too low in numbers. However I can’t explain the multiple eggs on the side of the cells.

In this case I would give the colony a good frame of BIAS, plus a real healthy addition of nurse bees. Then take a look in a weeks time to see how the new queen is laying. If still no good, I would kill the new queen, leaving her body there before adding another frame of BIAS.

A healthy number of nurse bees is the key to raising good brood.

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Hi Matt, I’m a first time beek so take my comments with a grain of salt.

We had a baptism of fire with our first nuc in Sep last year… similar view as yours and turned out to be a roaring case of AFB. The brood was sunken in a lot of cases and lots of “pin holes” in them all. What’s inside those sunken brood cells? If you pop one of them open and it looks like a gooey mess, grab an AFB kit and in a couple minutes you can rule that out (though this might be overkill given I’m ultra-cautious of AFB now :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:)

@JeffH advice is good. If AFB ruled out, dead pupae could be from a lack of bees keeping the brood warm overnight, especially if the laying is all over the joint like it is? Adding nurse bees and brood frames will help with building up the population.

Was there a gap in time between taking the split and installing the queen? If so, could there be a laying worker?

Where abouts in Sydney are you based?

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Hi thanks for the input.

Ok good to know that this configuration is possible

I did have some trouble with this split over the past months. I suspect i’ve lost some bees to starvation and it was a little light on to begin with. I only fed this hive for one week, while on the other 2 splits i fed for 2 weeks and they have filled the 10 frame boxes and i’ve had to put the honey supers on - so they’re going really well.

Will do - thank you.

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I will take a closer look at that frame as suggested. Your advice is sound. We’re actually in the glenorie area (from you’re name i’m guessing you are also hills district?)

Yes there was about 1 week where I couldnt locate the queen so I ordered one in from QLD. I dont remember seeing an abundance of drones - but I will look more closely next time. I think i’ll add a frame of BIAS and nurse bees from my strongest hive and if no improvement I will take Jeff’s advice and kill the queen as described.

Yep, in the Glenorie area as well. Nice to e-meet a local!

Thought i’d post an update here on this one. Took some time to get back to this hive as we were away. Opening the hive today it was clear this was now a failed split. Very few bees and no sign of the queen. One queen cup was present but no queen cell.

I checked some of the sunken brood by poking in with a thin stick and found them all to be chalk brood so i’m confident I dont have an AFB problem here. :slight_smile: Thanks for the great advice.

Thanks JeffH. I ended up transferring a very healthy frame of BIAS as suggested and I have moved the hive into a 5 frame nuc. I will reinspect in a week. My other two splits are really strong (walk away splits) - but this hive was split with an imported queen and I think the queen wasn’t great stock. I learned a lot with this failed split - and that is progress!


Have you excluded Stonebrood?

Had to look that one up. Never heard of that before. Apparently there hasn’t been a case in Australia for many years so I’m confident it’s chalk brood which I have had once before.

It does not matter what Australian beekeepers do not report or what agriculture departments do not publish :slight_smile:

What is important - Aspergillus is common fungus around the World, including Australia. Aspergillosis is one of the rare things which is transferable from bees to humans. The disease or just an allergic reaction to spores is not fun. Although, it is not particularly deadly - 24 underlying causes of death in Australia in 2019.

Another thing - chalkbrood and stonebrood is a pair in the differential diagnosis procedure. They have similarities. Yes, most likely it will be a chalkbrood, but stonebrood must be always on the mind because it is a health risk. No product from stonebrood affected hive could be used for human consumption.

How to tell one from another in the field (the most obvious distinction in mummies stage):
Chalkbrood - mummies rattle in capped cells and fall out when uncapped.
Stonebrood - fungus grows into the cell walls and it is often hard to extract mummies even with forceps. Fungus growth could be so vigorous that cells look like they are filled with yellow-green pollen.

Good to know thanks for the detail. I will look into stonebrood further. Always ready to learn something new. much appreciated